Thyme has an interesting history. According to Wikipedia the ancient Egyptians used it in embalming, the ancient Greeks burnt it as incense, and in the middle ages it was placed beneath pillows to ward off nightmares. Over the years herbalists have ascribed it a range of powers ranging from treating boils to dealing with tuberculosis as a result of its antiseptic qualities. This apparent antiseptic quality comes from the presence of Thymol (the active ingredient in Listerine) in its oil and it also gives thyme its taste. Its the flavour that I grow it for, although perhaps I should also be whipping up some mouthwash from it. If you have a recipe then please let me know.
I use thyme in a range of dishes (particularly chicken) and most frequently when I am making stock. One of my favourite spice mixtures – zaatar – has dried thyme as its major ingredient.
I find thyme the easiest of plants to grow. Plant it and it will grow, seems to pretty much cover it. I have it in partial shade and it will also thrive in full sun. I am currently growing two types of thyme. Pizza Thyme (it probably has another name but I’m not sure what) and Lemon Thyme. Unfortunately my Lemon Thyme plant was swamped last year by some self seeded parsley and a horseradish plant that I underestimated the size of. I have been encouraging this plant to layer so that it can be re sited.
Propagating by Layering
I like layering as a propagation method – it can be both remarkably effective (with the right plant) and also very easy. Layering involves encouraging the stem of a plant to grow roots by ensuring it is in continuous contact with the soil. Once it has grown roots this part of the plant can then be separated from the main plant and re-potted or moved to a new spot in the garden. Thyme is very easily propagated via layering.
First weigh down part of the stem to ensure continuous contact with the soil – I usually help it along a bit by covering the stem with soil. I used whatever was closest – in this case an old bamboo stake – to hold the plant in place.
Once the stem has grown roots and a decent root system has developed this part of the plant can be separated from the main plant and dug up.
The plant can then either be re-potted as one whole plant or separated into smaller sections. I decided to break mine into three parts ensuring that each had a reasonable root system and foliage.
I re-potted into 10cm diameter herb pots filled with fertilised potting mix. Thus 3 new plants were born from a small section of one Lemon Thyme plant.
With many thyme varieties you wont really need to help the plant with layering as they are naturally spreading. In this case you can propagate by simply detaching a small section of the plant and potting it up.